“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” So far so good.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Also good.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Much needed.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Challenging, but good.
“And lead us not into temptation.”
For centuries Christians have prayed this version of the Lord’s Prayer and for many this phrase has been difficult to understand. Does God actually lead us into temptation?
According the Pope, God would not be a good Father if He did such a thing. In fact, only Satan could actually lead someone into temptation. So the Pope approved the change for the Lord’s Prayer to now say this instead:
“Do not let us fall into temptation.”
Is he right about this?
Clarification: The Pope Didn’t Change the Lord’s Prayer
Before we get ahead of ourselves, I do think we need one clarification. I don’t think that the Pope actually changed the Lord’s Prayer, any more than a new English translation changed the Lord’s Prayer.
It’s not like the Pope is advocating to change the original Greek of Matthew’s Gospel. In fact, here’s how some other English translations read:
Contemporary English Version: “Keep us from being tempted.”
God’s Word Translation: “Don’t allow us to be tempted.”
Good News Translation: “Do not bring us to hard testing.”
New American Bible (Revised Edition): “Do not subject us to the final test.”
New Living Translation: “And don’t let us yield to temptation.”
New Revised Standard Version: “And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
The Pope is advocating for a change in how the phrase has been traditionally translated. Now the question becomes, “What is the best way to translate the phrase?”
Opinion: The Traditional Translation is Best
The verb for “lead” is eispherō and means “to bring into or lead into.” It is used to speak of the men who bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus (Luke 5:18), when people would bring the disciples before the authorities to be punished (Luke 12:11), and when Paul says that “we brought nothing into the world” (1 Timothy 6:7).
The word for “temptation” is peirasmos and can mean “temptation, trial, or experiment.” It is used when Jesus tells the disciples to pray that they “may not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41) and James says to be joyful when you come across many “trials” (James 1:2).
I think that the first word should be translated as “bring into or lead into.” However, I think the second word could be translated as “trial or testing” as opposed to temptation to sin. I find it perfectly acceptable to pray “Lead us not into trial” and pray this often myself.
In my opinion, I still lean towards the better translation being “Lead us not into temptation.”
Truth: God Does Lead into Temptation
Augustine said, “It is one thing to be led into temptation, another to be tempted.” And this is precisely what we see in Matthew 4:1:
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
This comes just two chapters before the Lord’s Prayer and is quite clear to me. The Spirit did the leading, but Satan did the tempting.
This at least shows that God has the prerogative to lead us to a place where Satan will eventually tempt us, but God is not on the hook for this. Satan is responsible for the temptation and we are responsible for how we react.
Instead of trying to change the translation, Charles Spurgeon tried to better understand the meaning of the phrase and take it at face value. Here’s how Spurgeon prayed this part of the Lord’s Prayer:
“O my Lord, but do not, I beseech You, lead me in Your providence where I shall be tempted, for I am so feeble, that perhaps the temptation may be too strong for me, therefore, this day make a straight path for my feet, and suffer me not to be assailed by the tempter.”
In summary, I believe we should continue to pray the traditional wording of the Lord’s Prayer without hesitation, knowing that our Heavenly Father is leading us with love and grace.